Denton County Public Health is looking to expand its services to prevent and treat sexually transmitted diseases as infection rates continue to rise here and across the state.
Matt Richardson, the director of county health, gave a presentation to Denton County commissioners on Tuesday morning of “County Health Rankings & Roadmap” produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Although Denton County ranks among the healthiest in Texas, according to the group’s metrics, it’s not doing so hot when it comes to STD infection rates.
On STD rates, the report shows, Denton County in 2018 fell behind where it was in the prior year’s study. This snapshot is used by health officials to help determine what its public health priorities should be moving into the future.
“We’re going in the wrong direction with sexually transmitted infections and diseases,” Richardson told the court.
Richardson told the commissioners that Denton County Public Health will seek funding in the next budget cycle to hire a disease intervention specialist, who will be tasked with conducting thorough investigations into how STDs are spreading in the county.
That comes about a year to the date when the county hired Celicia Boykin as its STD program coordinator, an expansion of the services Denton County Public Health offers to residents here.
Boykin, who previously worked for county health departments in Florida, is tasked with community outreach and educating people on how to prevent and treat STDs.
“We help them identify their risk, whether it’s multiple partners or inconsistent condom usage,” or other issues, Boykin said.
The county’s latest data show syphilis is on the rise in Denton County and the state. In 2017, the rate for syphilis infection was about 23 cases per 100,000 residents, up from about 19 cases per 100,000 residents in 2016. And the data show a steady increase in overall cases of about 60 from 2013 to about 190 in 2017.
Richardson said syphilis and HIV are at the forefront of the county’s prevention efforts.
“Syphilis and HIV are the ones that have the most detrimental health effects,” Richardson said.